Joc Pederson’s Spring Arguably Most Important
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
By now we’ve grown accustomed to throwing away Spring Training stats. Spring Training Superstar, Brian Barden found out that sometimes there is just no hope or predictability that comes from having a monstrous Spring. So throw away Justin Turner‘s 0.000 batting line thus far, forget about judging Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicasio, O’Koyea Dickson probably isn’t a legitimate prospect because of a couple of Spring Training dingers.
That being said, Spring Training has it’s uses in evaluating a player. The stats might not matter, but how a player looks, is crucial, especially when that player is a rookie and battling a veteran for the starting Center Field spot.
Remember, dealing with the sample sizes that have accrued up to this point are even more meaningless than the fact that they’re Spring Training stats, but Joc is looking more and more like a competent baseball player!
If you’ve paid attention at all this Winter, one number has popped up in every article about the prized OF prospect, his 26.9% K% last season in AAA Albuquerque. Everybody and their mother (including myself at one point) decided that his inability to make contact will bury him.
As the offseason went on, I suspected that one of the major issues with taking his strikeout rate from AAA at face value would be that his approach last season demanded for more strikeouts (but also more walks). Delving deep into his AAA performance seems to support this idea
Joc Pederson struck out 149 times last season. 32.2% of those strikeouts were of the looking variety. Pederson also walked an obscene 18.1% of the time. But the number that was most intriguing to me was Joc’s 8.7% Strikeout Looking%, this placed him in the 96th percentile in the entire Pacific Coast League!
Taken into context, this number seems abnormal, Pederson’s strikeout looking percentage for his entire career prior to AAA sat at 4.67%, which meant his KL% (strikeout looking%) shot up by over 4% this past season. This probably meant that his pitch recognition has abandoned him, or his approach was to take a lot of pitches this past season. Lets just say that the former is difficult to argue given that Pederson walked 100 times last season.
And hey, it’s not like Pederson should expect to become some contact aficionado, but to pencil him for 200 strikeouts based off of 553 Plate Appearances on the moon and 38 PA’s in the big leagues is hasty, to say the least.
Discussing hitting is always one of baseball’s greatest mysteries, and a hitter’s success is intricately tied to his swing, maybe that’s why Colby Rasmus looks like a 100+ million dollar player one minute, and he looks like a likely NRI the next. And there seems to be some tinkering going on with Pederson’s swing
Ryan Parker (a guy who knows way more about this kind of stuff) says that Pederson is way, way, way more balanced this year compared to last season, maybe that helps him lay off a tough slider away, maybe that helps him turn a routine fly ball into a double.
That power is real, and the aforementioned Parker agrees:
He could go hitless the rest of the spring, but as long as he looks good, he should get the nod. I’d wager on Pederson being in the lineup batting 8th or something on opening day against the Padres, there is a long way to go, but the adjustments, the impressive play out of the gate, the strikeout concerns that might be a tad overstated, and the fact that he’s the only potentially major league ready fringy CF in the entire organization makes him the favorite in the fight for CF.